Keeping it clean

by Kimberlie Clyma
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One essential step in sanitary design is that equipment should be self-draining.

Listeria is a common bacterium found in air, water and cold, moist places. Most of the Listeria bacterium is harmless, but Listeria monocytogenes is a dangerous strain that can cause an infection called listeriosis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 1,600 people get listeriosis each year, and about 260 die. Certain populations, such as pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems are most at risk.

Since L. monocytogenes can thrive in cold, moist environments like meat and poultry processing plants, sanitation practices are essential. When sanitation practices are insufficient, Listeria can harbor in processing equipment, such as conveyor belts, slicers and dicers. Also, packaging machinery could harbor bacteria and transfer it to products.

Industry and government, including the North American Meat Institute Foundation, have made it a top priority to reduce the prevalence of Listeria in foods and prevent its spread in processing facilities. In 2002, NAMI’s predecessor, the American Meat Institute, established the Equipment Design Task Force (EDTF) to help develop operational and equipment sanitary design guidelines to minimize the spread of Listeria in processing plants. The EDTF, comprised of representatives from meat and poultry processing companies, created the sanitary design principles in consultation with equipment manufacturers, certifying organizations and government officials. The task force developed the “10 Principles of Sanitary Design” and in 2013, the guidelines were revised.

The 10 principles can be used in any food processing facility. According to the NAMI Foundation, the principles:

Provide an opportunity for equipment providers and equipment users to work together to identify issues of common concern;
Provide a forum to enable the sanitary design conversation to happen ahead of time rather than when equipment reaches the floor;
Create a standardized food safety focus for equipment evaluation;
Encourage and allow for innovation and drive continuous improvement in the industry.

10 Principles

The design of processing equipment used in meat and poultry facilities plays a crucial role in helping control pathogens and ensure safe, sanitary environments for food production. The “10 Principles of Sanitary Design” were created to help both processors and equipment manufacturers understand how they could work together to control pathogens.

The 10 principles are:

1. Cleanable to a microbiological level – Food equipment must be constructed as to prevent bacterial ingress, survival, growth and reproduction on both product and non-product contact surfaces of the equipment.

2. Made of compatible materials – The materials used for the equipment must be compatible with the product, environment, cleaning and sanitizing chemicals and methods of cleaning and sanitation.

3. Accessible for inspection, maintenance, cleaning and sanitation – All parts of the equipment must be accessible for cleaning without the use of tools.

4. No product or liquid collection – Equipment should be self-draining.

5. Hollow areas should be hermetically sealed – Hollow areas should be eliminated wherever possible or permanently sealed.

6. No niches – Equipment parts should be free of niches such as pits, cracks, corrosion, recesses, open seams, gaps, lap seams, protruding ledges, inside threads, bolt rivets and dead ends.

Sanitary operational performance – The equipment must perform so it does not contribute to unsanitary conditions.

Hygienic design of maintenance enclosures – Maintenance enclosures and human machine interfaces (push buttons, valve handles, switches and touchscreens) must be designed so food product, water or product liquid doesn’t penetrate or accumulate in the enclosure.

9. Hygienic compatibility with other plant systems – The equipment design must ensure hygienic compatibility with other systems such as electrical, hydraulics, steam, air and water.

Validated cleaning and sanitizing protocols – Procedures for cleaning and sanitizing must be clearly written and posted, and recommended chemicals must be compatible with the equipment and manufacturing environment.

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